Leaving the house with young kids is always a triumph. I had been attempting to do just that with my one and three year old all morning. While cleaning oatmeal off the one year old the three year old ran outside and then ran through the house with his muddy boots. While helping the three year old with his boots the one year old was dipping her hat in the dog water and soaking her pants. While changing the one year old the three year old was undressing and dumping out baskets of toys. Finally both kids were dressed and ready to go and I was packing up food and listening to their laughter, grateful that they were enjoying each other’s company. I turned to see that they were taking turns stomping on a squeezy water bottle and running through the resulting puddle in their socks. I ran upstairs and silent-screamed, sobbed and pounded the mattress with my fists before cheerily calling down that I was looking for some dry socks.
Parenting is wonderful and hard. But these day-to-day struggles aren’t what make parenting so deeply exhausting. The true challenge for me has been doing my best to stay calm and raise my children in a good way while under the constant weighted blanket of grief for the world. The challenge is finding strength and hope while feeding my kids breakfast, knowing that a mother is bringing her son home in a wheelbarrow and burying him in a shallow grave in her garden in Ukraine. It is nursing my daughter to sleep knowing that manatees are starving in record numbers in Florida right now because of pollution and climate change. I write of this exhaustion with awareness that I parent with a great deal of privilege, and do not have to face the daily violence of racism, homophobia/transphobia, etc. which cause suffering and exhaustion I will never even understand. How do we carry on raising our children in the face of such constant atrocities and loss? For me, one way to hold onto hope is through action.
What is happening in Ukraine is a devastating reminder about the connection between war and the climate crisis. Militarism is a huge contributor to climate change, and access to resources like oil are at the root of armed conflict. Not only do fossil fuels drive the climate emergency, but they also fund and enable war. As long as we are extracting and burning dirty energy, we are going to see more families torn apart by instability, violence, and war. And while we have heard daily about the suffering in Ukraine, the latest IPCC report has made it clear that our time of deliberation is up. We are on track for catastrophic 3C heating, spelling the most extreme outcomes of the climate emergency, including total social and environmental collapse. But this is not yet an inevitability. Scientists have provided a clear path to avoid this worst case scenario and it means scaling up the climate movement and defeating the fossil fuel industry in order to get to net zero emissions by 2050. The response to the war in Ukraine must not be to ramp up domestic oil and gas extraction. This is our moment to make the leap off dirty energy. And as we all work toward the end of the fossil fuel age we must make sure that this transition is just, and centering the voices of those who are most vulnerable and historically marginalized.
There are false solutions being proposed through legislation in our state right now, such as the use of biofuels as a clean heat source. While false solutions like this are appealing on the surface, in truth, biofuels displace food crops, destroy ecosystems and release sequestered carbon. Local leaders should be prioritizing real change right now by funding massive weatherization and incentives for low income Vermonters to have access to heat pumps, EV’s and community solar. We need to fund more environmental justice legislation and provide land access to BIPOC farmers, and prioritize a robust public transportation system including all electric school buses.
I wish I could devote all of my time and attention to raising my kids and pursuing my work, but I simply can’t do that under the weight of fear I feel constantly for their future. As a mom I will continue to organize for climate justice. And I will continue to sweep up the crumbs under the table, knowing it means I am still able to feed my family, I will wash the dishes and do the laundry, grateful that we have access to hot running water, I will try to revel in the constant noise, knowing it means I am surrounded by my kids who are still alive. As a member of Families Rise Up, (a network of 700+ parents and families across Vermont working for climate justice) I know that I am not alone with these sentiments. Our strength lies in our shared love for our kids, and our fierce commitment to justice, an end to war, and a liveable planet.
Hannah Morgan is a mom and organizer with Families Rise Up in Plainfield VT. Families Rise Up is a project of 350 Vermont bringing together families to talk about the tough realities of climate change and to participate in the transition to a healthier and safer world.
You can join Families Rise Up for an Earth Day Solidarity Rally and Nurse-In on the Statehouse steps, Saturday, April 23rd from 11AM-1PM. The nurse-in will take place at noon
What: All families are invited to join us in singing, nursing our babies, and picnicking together on the state house steps to call for an end to fossil fuel extraction and war, and to celebrate community and life. Please wear yellow or blue, bring your families, friends, and a picnic lunch, and come ready to sing. All nursing people are especially invited to come together and nurse their babies or children at noon on the statehouse steps.